J a p a n e s e    C u l t u r e

Modern and Traditional Japanese Culture: The Psychology of Buddhism, Power Rangers, Masked Rider, Manga, Anime and Shinto. 在日イギリス人男性による日本文化論.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


Election Sound Trucks, Yoshimichi Nakajima, and Architecture

I can't blame this politician but I really used to hate these election cars. Twenty years ago, when I was learning Japanese these beasties would come by blaring someone’s name and saying thank you, I would, or did on one occasioning run after the truck shouting "Urusai!" (You are being loud/shut up!) to which the politician replied, with thanks.

These days, I have become used to the election cars. I almost feel fond of them.

The western part of me still feels, however, that these announcements would be okay if the politicians said something, such as what their policies are but in general all they say are greetings, the name of the politician and an appeal to vote for me.

There is also a "mythology"(Barthes) to these announcement in that their speech serves to tell the residents, through whose street the car travels, that the politician cares about that particular street.

This politician, running for office in the Yamaguchi City Town hall. Yamaguchi City is now very large. The politician whose sound truck appears in this video, comes from this particular part of town and has and will, I presume, represent the wishes of this his locality or "constituency." So in a sense it makes sense to vote for the politician whose name one hears blaring out of the most sound trucks. There, I never thought I would say it: election sound trucks make sense. If I had a vote, I might even vote for this politician )I do not have a vote because I am not a naturalised Japanese citizen).

The existence of sound trucks is another demonstration of the fact that Japanese do not care a flip about words, in the sense of what they mean - the locutionary act. The meaning of words is almost only in their illocutionary, performative aspect. The performative meaning of this speech at is loud and clear; "I, Mr. H, the politician am making an announcement in your street because I cares about getting the votes of its residents." The politician could simply repeat his name and some mumbo jumbo. Indeed, that is what the vast majority of Japanese politicians do.

Yoshimichi Nakajima’s Japanology which points out the prevalence of verbal announcements in Japan is very good. Not only does he point out the prevalence of linguistic pollution in Japan but also he goes on to show that words must be public, not private in Japan. The Japanese are very tolerant of all sorts of announcements and endless tapes and motto-signs (e.g. those that encourage road safety, or that we greet each other). At the same time they are very intolerant of the expression of personal opinion in a vocal way. E.g. it is the very worst of form to use a mobile phone in a public area, even if one talks in a low voice and I have to pay my students to ask a question in class.

However, what Nakashima does not point out is the Japanese equivalent of the word, or the Western equivalent of the suppression of private speech.

The latter (Western suppression of individual freedom), is observed, I believe in Western architecture. One is free to express oneself verbally in the UK, because speech is yours, it belongs to the individual. In Japan one can express oneself freely in ones house architecture and Japanese cities bristle with some of the most un-harmonious individualism known to man. But, in the UK, if you change anything about the appearance of your house, even the window sills, then you will be fined by the local council, because appearances are public. The situation is reversed in Japan: the word is public, but appearance belongs to the holder.

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Monday, April 12, 2010


Uniqlo Management Theory

The chairman of Fast Retailing, the power behind the Uniqlo Clothing stores throughout Japan and the world, Yanai Tadashi has written a book called "Forget Your Successes in a Day," about the way that he runs his company: never becoming self satisfied. I mention chairman Yanai's philosophy in cultural psychology classes.

The cultural psychologist, Steven Heine has two interlinked theories about why the Japanese are more likely to engage in self-criticism (rather than pumping up their self-esteem).
1) The Japanese don't care so much about being there (because they are not "entity theorists) as getting there (becuase they are incremental theorists). Hence they don't mind forgetting their current success, an concentrating on their failiures for the purpose of continued self improvement.
2) The Japanese don't care much about being great as being loved. Being "successful" is just an ego trip. But making customers and employees happy, that is what success is really about. So they forget their successes and concentrate on their failiures because love, friendship and social relations is what life is really about.

I have another theory why Japanese do no mind cricising themselves, because if they do it linguistically, words are like is water off a ducks back. If they were to loose face however, to imagine themselves, visually, in a negative light then it is painful.

Generally speaking Western psychologists would be inclined to claim that Yanai's philosophy is very unhealthy and likely to lead to depression (Taylor and Brown). Zelligman, the former head of the American Association of Psychology and founder of "Positive Psychology" encourages passing the buck, blaming others, negating the contributions of others and the effect of chance, and doing pretty much anything to get a buzz out of ones successes.

Here is a man showing that remembering ones successes can work too.

And not all Western Psychologists recommend high self esteem, particularly "Sociemeter Theory" by Rory Baumeister and friends.

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Sunday, April 11, 2010


Electronics Graveyard

These days consumer electronics, such as TV sets and refrigerators, do not find their way into the rubbish (garbage), since they have to be taken to recycle centres, in the form of local electronic supplies stores.

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This blog represents the opinions of the author, Timothy Takemoto, and not the opinions of his employer.